Ear Tubes

Does your baby need ear tubes? It can be scary to see your little one undergo surgery--see what the experience is like from a mom's point of view.

I’ve been “part-time” for about three months now, and I’ve spent approximately, um, ALL of my off-day Fridays in the doctor’s office confirming my suspicions that O (the letter, not the number) had yet another ear infection, or hadn’t recovered from the previous infection. At the last visit after a second course of antibiotics and a shot of antibiotics hadn’t knocked out the current infection, the pediatrician threw in the towel and instructed me to see an ENT to discuss ear tubes. So much for breastfed babies not getting ear infections.

I called the ENT O’s pediatrician recommended and couldn’t get in for a month. I thought it was regoddarndiculous that they would make a suffering 8-month-old wait that long to see someone. Since I suspected O was getting yet another ear infection (or still hadn’t kicked the old one—who knew?), I started asking around for other ENT recos. More than a few people reco’d Dr. Cotton from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. So I called him up and got in at the end of the week. I was sold–by the fact that he got me in so quickly and because he was described as an international leader in the field of Otolaryngology.

So last Friday, O and I made my way to Children’s, maneuvered our way around the hospital corridors, and met with Dr. Cotton. His diagnosis was what I feared: O needed tubes. The Dr. saw a lot of fluid that was constantly becoming infected, and he suspected O’s hearing was being affected by this fluid, so he instructed O to get a hearing test.

The test was held in a small room with speakers in two corners. There were two women, one to distract O and another who went behind a darkened glass window to play sounds through the speakers. I held O in my lap and prayed he did well on one of his first real “tests.” My heart sunk every time he turned his head toward the wrong speaker. I almost started crying. We got another diagnosis that day: O had some hearing issues due to the fluid in his ears, but we were assured that once the fluid could drain properly (through tube insertion), his hearing would go back to “normal.”

From there we went to see nurse who explained all about the surgery—showed me the “tube” (a super-small piece of plastic that I’d never think to call a tube) that would be inserted in his ear drum, told me exactly why it had to be done, what to expect before and after surgery, and tried to calm my fears. She failed on that last part. Even though the surgery is only going to be approximately 15 minutes long, even though O won’t be in pain anymore, even though he won’t have to withstand any more courses of antibiotics, I’m still worried. It’s my little boy. He’s having surgery. He’s going under anesthesia.

Friday is his pre-op appointment and surgery is scheduled for Tuesday. J. will be out of town, so we’re on our own. I’ve rearranged my schedule next week so I can have the day of his surgery off, and be home the day afterward—even though people have assured me he will be good as gold as little as a few hours after surgery, I still want to be there for him as much as I can.

Another good thing I’ve been told about the surgery? Children sleep much better post-op. Good for O and his development, and good for Mom and her TV watching habits. Maybe I’ll actually be able to stay awake during Lost next Wednesday.

22 thoughts on “Ear Tubes

  1. Just wanted to give you my own experience with my son getting tubes. It was great.Of course I cried but the operation itself was less than 15 minutes. And I was allowed to stay with him until he went under the anesthesia (sp?). He was 16 months old about one year ago when the surgery was done. He still has the tubes and the ENT expects them to “fall out” this summer.

    On another note- I just want to say how happy I am to have stumbled across this blog! I work (I’m an attorney) and have a 2 year old son and constantly feel at odds with myself. I have a fantastic husband who is getting a Masters Degree — I could insist that he work and let me stay home but I felt his career happiness was important too and he needs the degree to move forward. When he graduates I may change my work situation – or maybe not- I feel privileged to have the choices. And I feel lucky to be in the company of such smart, thoughtful, and committed women and mothers! Thanks again.

  2. My son received his first set of tubes at age 3 and it was so much simpler than I had expected! The surgery was quick, he was in less pain AFTER the surgery than he’d been in BEFORE the surgery and his recovery time was minimal! In fact, we had the surgery in the morning and went to see a Major League Baseball game that evening!

    Both you and he will be much happier once the tubes are in and you won’t believe the difference in him!

    Don’t worry – he’ll be fine! You’re doing the right thing!

  3. I’ll be thinking about you and O, Tela–hang in there!

  4. Justice Fergie says:

    hi tela!

    first, that photo is just tooo cute.

    second, good for you for not waiting to see the ENT the pediatrician recommended. sometimes that whole field of professionals can be a tad ridiculous.

    last, good luck with the surgery! i’ve heard that it is not bad at all and of course very worth it. it’s good that you did the hearing test too — my sister is deaf so I know of the challenges that can come with hearing loss.

    let us know how O does!

  5. I’m looking forward to O being a happier, healthier boy–and his mom getting some decent sleep!

  6. Anonymous says:

    My son had to have a minor surgery at 11 months and my biggest fear was the anesthesia, too. I completely trusted the surgeon, I loved the nurses and the children’s hospital where the surgery was done has a stellar reputation. But it was definitely hard to overcome that fear of the anesthesia.

    How did I do it? I had to. You see, my husband was apparently so anxious about the surgery, and particularly the anesthesia, that two days before my son’s surgery, he called me at work to ask me to come take him to the ER because he was having chest pains. This is a man who has to be forced to go to the doctor. I had no idea he was so anxious. He turned out to be ok (although he was wearing one of those crazy heart halter monitors the day of our son’s surgery) and later blamed the problem on having too much coffee.

    Anyway, I had no choice but to be the one who was not afraid. So I just did (or at least I supressed it enough to feel I wasn’t).

    Everything turned out fine. I wish you the best on this!

  7. My daughter had it right after her year birthday, and she was a different kid afterward…so nice to not have ear infections!

  8. just4ofus says:

    He will do fine! It is unsettling when they have to have surgery.
    The tubes will be worth it!
    Jude had surgery when he was one, and it was unsettling.
    Good Luck.

  9. Hey Tela –
    Just wanted to let you know that O is in good hands. BAB just had throat surgery earlier this month and Dr. Cotton performed it. They say he is the best and our day (it felt like and enternity) at Children’s was wonderful. I have never met a more helpful, personable staff.

  10. My daughter had tubes in Jan after constant ear infections for months. She wasn’t hearing either and was saying very little even though she was obviously smart. Since the tubes she has had NO ear infections. She also is now hearing us, and in two short months, is now chattering up a storm. Tubes was one of the best things we ever did for her. The anesthesia was the scariest part for me too even though she had had anesthesia before when she had surgery at 6 months. But she did great. I know I can’t keep you from worrying, but hopefully our story will give you a little reassurance.

  11. Oh, wow, Tela. I had no idea you were going through this! I will be thinking of you and O – hoping everything comes out (or, in this case, goes in) just as it should.

    Hugs to you!

  12. I think everything will work out fine! Little O is going to feel better than ever. Good luck on Tuesday, I’ll be thinking about you guys!

  13. Thanks to everyone for their kind words, thoughts, and support!

    I know things are going to be fine… but I’ve always been a worrywart. Then when I had Owen? If worrying was an Olympic sport, I’d be a 85-time gold medalist.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Can I ask…how did it go? I realize this is an old blog, but my son (17 months old) is scheduled to get tubes next month, due to persistent fluid in his ears. I am having my doubts about it. He “talks” quite a bit, but I am wondering if he would be talking more if he could hear better. Should I wait? He has only had 2 ear infections. I need some input from moms who have gone through this. Thanks!

  15. Hi Anon–

    I wrote about how it went in another post (don’t know if you found it or not), but for us, it was worth it.

    However, he had a lot more than two ear infections. I’d say he had about 10 at least. Or at least one giant long one that never, ever cleared up for more than a week.

    So, do what’s best for you and your family. If you want to talk more personally–feel free to email me!

  16. Anonymous says:

    i have never had a ear infection in my life just fluid.
    I had to have tubes when i was 5 and was not very aware at what was going on but still remember it! felt wonderful after surgery!
    I had to have tubes again at age 8 and then again felt great.
    Now i am 12 and need them yet again and had my first two ear infections and both ear drums ruptured….Yet again scheduled for surgery at childrens hospital colubus ohio with docter willet on the 22 of may

  17. My 8 month old (breastfed) son was just diagnosed with his 4th ear infection in 4 months. He got a shot last night & the last antibiotics the doc would give him. We have a follow up in 2 weeks with an ENT to talk about tubes. I really "felt" your story because it's my own! Good luck! I am scared to death!!

  18. I hope that everything goes ok with the surgery and that O feels much better.

    I hate that so many children are going through this but I love that this blog exists and am so happy to have found it. I love google.

    I am in the same situation. My daughter turned one on January 14, 2009. Since the fall she has had one single and seven double ear infections. I am convinced that it has all been one long evil ear infection that hasn’t been cleared-up with ANY antibiotic and I think she has had them all.

    The most recent was Augmentin, which I was against as she had already been on it before and got an awful diaper rash. I was assured that it is the best and the others don’t seem to be working. Since I was sick of her being in pain, we tried it again. Sure enough, about 3 days in, she developed a TERRIBLE diaper rash and it only got worse. We stopped giving it to her before the 10 days was over. Any longer and she wouldn’t have been able to sit. This was Friday night. Thankfully, we had already had a tube consultation scheduled, which was yesterday. I don’t think I could have taken anymore.

    At the consult, she took the hearing test, which I thought went ok. Her resulst showed that she barely passed. It was all I could do to keep the tears from flowing and breaking down. It makes me so sad for her to be going through this. She barely even made a glitch on the other test. The lines were supposed to show spikes and hers almost look flatlined. The Dr. recommended tubes and we were fully on-board. I teared-up as he explained the process but I knew it was for the best. It really broke my heart when he told us that he didn’t feel like any antibiotics would ever have worked for her. The Dr. assured that he didn’t think that she would have any long term damage and that once the tubes were in any hearing problems would be resolved.

    Her surgery is schedule for tomorrow, March 5th. I am happy hoping this will be the best thing and that she won’t have to be in constant pain. On the other hand, I am so scared that I can hardly function properly. My mind is racing a mile a minute. I feel somewhat like I am making a bigger deal out of it but I know that it really is a big deal.

    I know that this is a long post but I feel better just being able to “talk” about it.

    I hope everyone with the same problem ends up with a happy and healthy child!!

  19. So I meant to add in my previous post that I work full-time and our daughter attends a daycare.

    I hate that I feel guilty for missing work. How in the world is it possible to be afraid of work when it is something this important. It makes me resent even walking through the door. I think the biggest problem is that I share an office with a lady who doesn’t have any children and I feel like she won’t understand.

    For some reason, I told her that I would be back to work after the surgery was done. I don’t even know why I said it. I knew it wasn’t true. There is no way I am leaving my baby at daycare and returning to work. When I woke up this morning my goal was to come into work and tell her I wouldn’t be in tomorrow and not even care what she or anyone said. Well, I have been here for an hour and it hasn’t happened yet. What is wrong with me? I now feel like an awful mother that I can’t stand up to her, especially when it is for my child. I know I will eventually tell her and she will probably just say, ok, and never even turn around and look at me or say anything else. I guess that is what makes it so hard but it seems like that would make it easier. I guess I have just come to accept the way she is over the past 9 years.

  20. ms.williams says:

    my daughter is having the ear tubes tomorrow morning at 6:30 am im so nervous

    1. How did it go? My 10 month old daughter is scheduled for March 26th for ear tubes. I have been nervous for her, but after reading this I feel so much better! Still a little nervous about her going under though. She is always awake at night tossing and turning…

  21. Scared Mom says:

    Help to any moms out there! My 3yr old son had the tubes put in July 2012. He has had pain every since. Now the pain is getting worse. We have seen the pediatrician repeatedly and the dr informed me that that tubes need to be replaced (NOT WHAT I WANTED TO HEAR!). We were told the tubes never helped the fluid in my sons ears. Has anyone ever heard of this? Thanks for listening.

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